san francisco alcatraz
San Francisco
Alcatraz Island

It'€™s a short but scenic boat ride from San Francisco to Alcatraz Island, site of a famous prison, today a national park. Alcatraz is much more than its most notorious inmate - gangster Al Capone. In the 19th century a lighthouse and Civil War era fort were built on the island, families and children lived on Alcatraz for over 150 years - today shore birds makes their nests and flowers bloom on the island.

Before you go -
Alcatraz is a very popular destination, year round, especially in summer. The national park is free, but you'll need a day & time ticket for ferry to the island.
Book tickets well in advance ! Here's the cruise schedule .
Bring snacks and lunch. On the island, bottled water is available, that's it.
Weather - Even on a bright sunny day, bring light jackets for the ferry ride, and on Alcatraz, there's no heat in the Cellhouse. Summer can be cold, damp and foggy days, dress warmly.
Read our blog post: " Alcatraz Island: Tips for visiting The Rock with kids " - history of the island, and more tips - when to visit, strollers, restrooms, picnic areas etc.
Alcatraz Landing - Pier 33
At the landing, you'll line up for ferry ride to the island, arrive at least 10 min. before your ticket time, boarding begins half an hour before departure.
Take time to look at the scale model of Alcatraz, and replica of 1860's cannon (with cannon balls) for defense of the military fort.
Tip: No car parking at Pier 33 (nearest garage is across from Pier 39). Best way to get there, take trams that go down Market St. to the Ferry Building, and along the Embarcadero to Fisherman's Wharf.
Exploring Alcatraz Island
At the dock, you'll find maps of Alcatraz, and watch the 10 minute video about the history of Alcatraz.
At the Cellhouse, pick up the audio tour (tour is in eleven different languages, but no kid's version).
A gripping audio tour takes you through the prison, vividly narrated by previous inmates and corrections officers. Prison uprisings are described with graphic recollections and sound effects. Doors of selected cells are open, so kids can step inside.
Tip: If you have toddlers and younger kids along, skip the Cellhouse - take them to the Parade Ground to watch the container ships and sailboats going by in the bay.
After you've finished the Cellhouse tour, explore the island. Check out the lighthouse, still in operation (but you can't go inside), ruins of the warden's house, and gardens on the west side. Views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge are stellar.
Today the national park is restoring the island to a more natural state, with native plants and agave garden, birds now make their nests here.
Picnic tables are available on the dock. Check the return boat schedule, ferry runs about every 45 minutes.